Acclaimed author and photographer Mark Zelinski donates books to Niagara schools

·3 min read

The holiday season for author Mark Zelinski is about giving — and that is what he did when he donated 160 copies of his photography book “Heart of Turtle Island: The Niagara Escarpment” to all Niagara public and Catholic school libraries.

Zelinski, a Governor General’s Medal winner, is best known for his Books That Heal initiative, which has donated 7,000 copies of his photography books to 100 worldwide charities.

When he first conceived the “Heart of Turtle Island: The Niagara Escarpment” project, Zelinski wanted to focus on the escarpment’s geology; however, something was missing.

“Something that became apparent to me as I was creating this book is that the newest chapter in the history of the escarpment is the story of how people have populated these lands,” he said.

The result is a collection of 400 images showcasing the natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities that live within it.

Zelinski brought together voices from across the escarpment who provided insight and context into the region’s Indigenous cultures, namely the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe.

Former Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations Isadore Day said in the foreward, “The Niagara Escarpment is the Heart of Turtle Island for good reason. Our Peoples have lived and thrived on these lands and waters for thousands of years. The Treaty of Niagara, between our Peoples and the British Crown, was signed here because of the great significance that these lands held for our Peoples.”

It is that insight that led to District School Board of Niagara and Niagara Catholic District School Board enthusiastically embracing Zelinski’s donation.

“We always appreciate good, quality resources to support our students’ learning, and this book includes excellent examples of place-based learning that is very relevant to our communities in Niagara, and to the work we do in Indigenous education,” said Jamie Groat, Indigenous education lead for DSBN. “We are grateful to have received the ‘Heart of Turtle Island’ for all our DSBN schools.”

Karen Desjardins, co-ordinator of library information centres for Niagara Catholic, said, “We are pleased to accept this beautiful book to add to our Niagara Catholic school libraries’ reference collections.

“While we are unable to use our libraries as we normally would due to COVID-19, we look forward to a time when we can place this book out on tabletops for students to enjoy while in the library,” she added. “With stunning photos and information about the history and geography of this area, we’re sure that many students will gain an appreciation for photography and a desire to learn more about Indigenous culture and the Niagara Escarpment by reading it.”

Zelinski offered some insight for readers to consider.

“I think we need to see the human race as a family, and it’s exciting for me to use my photography books as an educational tool for children, and for charities and schools who work to help people every day across the world.”

More information on “Heart of Turtle Island: The Niagara Escarpment” and Zelinski’s new book, “Niagara: Land Between Two Waters,” is available on his website markzelinski.com.

Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: svanderklis@metroland.com

Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review